Zain Saudi Arabia announced the award of infrastructure deals worth $1.2 billion, as it looks to modernise its network in the face of growing data traffic.
Huawei, Nokia, NEC, Cisco Systems and Alcatel-Lucent were all awarded contracts, according to a statement by the Saudi number three operator to the Saudi stock exchange.
Zain said it would finance the deal with its own resources, with the financial impact expected to be felt starting from the third quarter of 2014.
The stock exchange statement said the contract awards are for a turnkey project to be delivered over three years, giving Zain “a state of the art modern network to cope with the ever growing demand of data communication”.
The aim is to improve the competitiveness of Zain’s network in Saudi Arabia and provide customers with a “superior customer experience in a more cost effective way”.
Infrastructure to put in place includes LTE and mobile broadband equipment, including radio access, transmission, core network, IP backbone and internet gateway.
Network coverage will reach 96 per cent once the work has been completed, with significant improvements to capacity and performance. The company hopes this will enable it to capture more traffic, generate more revenue and optimise costs.
Nokia was the first of the suppliers to comment on its role with Zain, which includes the deployment of its Liquid Applications cloud technology, which will enable the operator to provide customised applications such as augmented reality and location-based services.
Nokia will also work with Zain to refarm 2.1GHz spectrum for LTE, provide carrier aggregation of 1.8GHz and 2.1GHz bands for improved LTE speed and coverage, and deploy LTE small cell technology to boost capacity and indoor coverage.
“We want to reload our network infrastructure with the very latest of technologies in order to address the high demand for more interesting services,” commented Hassan Kabbani, CEO of Zain in Saudi Arabia.
Zain is currently the third-largest operator in Saudi Arabia with 8.36 million connections at the end of the first quarter, according to GSMA Intelligence figures. Saudi market leader STC had 23.23 million connections, while Mobily was second with 19.95 million connections.